Various Switches To Motivation: When And How To Push Them


Efren Alvarez Galapon
Manager, Corporate Qualtiy, Health & Safety, Environment
Mobile Business Company Ltd. (MBUZZ)
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Mobile: +966 54 805 46 15

This blog delves into some of the reasons (causes) to the deterioration of positive work attitude of subordinates into costly passivity leading to unproductiveness in work settings.

One simple case study:

I was summoned by the business unit manager for a brief meeting. I was called in my capacity as HR manager and as a person perceived to be knowledgeable of human behavior.

Upon entering the room, I saw the manager and his subordinate facing each other as they sat in front of a conference table.

The subordinate sat almost motionless; his head slightly bowed; his eyes were transfixed onto the table top; hands on the table with fiddling fingers; he only moved and spoke to greet me when I entered the room.

I inquired what I can do for the occasion. The manager spoke first and started to talk. He said: Mathew (not his true name) is an expert computer programmer; he is now more than five months with the company; before, he used to be productive; but two weeks ago, he practically stopped working and only worked when I had to tell him …

Then I turned my head toward Mathew; met his eyes with mine; and asked him gently and assuringly, “Mathew, it’s your turn to talk; may I know your concern, please.” He replied, “I have found another job but I want to continue working with the company; all I want now is to know if the company is going to transfer my sponsorship or not.” Mathew’s voice was weak and apprehensive; he was honest; I could imagine the conflict inside him.

I waited until Mathew signaled that I can start to talk. Then I said, “Mathew, the person who can make that decision is out of the city now; he will get back in two days; I assure you, when he comes back I will get his decision for you or I can arrange for you to talk to him personally.” After saying these words, I saw the face of Mathew instantly turned aglow with a smile and thanked me. A perceptive person can see sparks of instantaneous hope and inspiration in Mathew’s face as he unconsciously gestured to get back to his work station eagerly.

What makes a person focuses onto his work forgetting almost everything and becomes highly productive? And what makes another person just do the opposite?


The word motivation is derived from the Latin word “movire” which means “to move.”

For instance, if you pick up a box and transfer it to another place—you moved the box with your own personal physical power. If you ask someone to bring a glass of water for you and he did, you moved that person out of your power of sort—maybe you are the supervisor of the person; or, the person was just acting on its own decision because of some reason (his motive) he had in his mind: he wanted to please the supervisor; he was afraid of the supervisor; he was simply a nice person to all the people in the world, etc.

The bottom line is: moving someone in order to get or achieve something.

The sources to moving a person can be termed as switches to motivation. There two schools of thoughts that view the sources of these switches—one sees the sources as “external” the other “internal.”

An external source of motivation can be seen from a supervisor/manager who instructs his subordinate to do something—and something happens, i.e., the desire of the superior (the “mover”) is obtained or not; and the source of internal motivation can be seen in the subordinate making a decision whether to follow the instruction of his superior or not.

A manager/supervisor and a subordinate in a work setting are always aware of their work relationships—that is, one is a superior, the other is a subordinate. And that authority over the subordinate is given to the superior who has this simple statement in his mind: you are hired to follow orders; otherwise, you are out.

The problem sets in when the switches to motivation are not used appropriately. The table below shows a matrix of behavior along with said switches.


All employees in the world are subordinates—and as such, they are paid to follow orders from their superiors. Even a powerful CEO, is a paid employee supervised by a Board. (A corporate Board is likewise supervised or monitored by a local government’s regulatory agency.)

The only entities that can claim to have no superiors/supervisors are the entrepreneurs (single proprietors of businesses) and the oligarchs. (But somehow, they are aware of a government’s regulatory power that affect them one way or another.)
Are you a manager or supervisor with unproductive or stubborn subordinates? It is time you hone your skill of managing the right switch to motivation.

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